Nurmagomedov extended his unbeaten record to 29-0 with a triangle-choke submission against Justin Gaethje to retain his lightweight title. It was his first win since the death of his father and trainer, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.
The fighter was open about the difficulties of fighting without his father and cited it as a reason he made the surprise announcement.
If that decision holds—he said it would because he promised his mother—he walks away as one of the most dominant champions in the history of the sport. He added Gaethje to a list of fallen foes that includes Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor and Al Iaquinta.
The fight represented a violent end to what was a violent night. There were nine finishes, including in five of the six main card bouts. Here's a look at all the action from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
- Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Justin Gaethje via submission (triangle choke), 1:34 of Round 2
- Robert Whittaker def. Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Alexander Volkov def. Walt Harris via TKO (body kick and punches), 1:15 of Round 2
- Phil Hawes def. Jacob Malkoun via KO (punches), 0:18 of Round 1
- Lauren Murphy def. Liliya Shakirova via submission (rear-naked choke), 3:31 of Round 2
- Magomed Ankalaev def. Ion Cutelaba via KO (punches), 4:19 of Round 1
- Tai Tuivasa def. Stefan Struve via KO (punches), 4:59 of Round 1
- Casey Kenney def. Nathaniel Wood via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Alex Oliveira via submission (guillotine), 4:40 of Round 1
- Sam Alvey vs. Da un Jung, split draw (29-28, 28-29, 28-28)
Fight Pass Card
- Miranda Maverick def. Liana Jojua via TKO (doctor stoppage), 5:00 of Round 1
- Joel Alvarez def. Alexander Yakovlev via submission (armbar), 3:00 of Round 1
Robert Whittaker def. Jared Cannonier
If Robert Whittaker is The Reaper, the jab is his scythe. He used it to cut off Jared Cannonier at every turn en route to an impressive unanimous decision.
Cannonier battered Whittaker's lead leg with continuous calf kicks throughout the fight, but in terms of unleashing his signature power punches, he was flummoxed by Whittaker's boxing. The Australian was the higher-volume fighter and consistently outboxed his opponent.
Whittaker nearly ended the fight when he unleashed a head kick off a jab-straight combination.
He wasn't able to finish, but he did prove he's still one of the top fighters in the middleweight division. His only loss in the class came against Israel Adesanya.
With two wins since that loss, it's getting hard to say he isn't worthy of a rematch. This version of Whittaker could give the champion a tougher test.
Alexander Volkov def. Walt Harris
After a lopsided loss to Curtis Blaydes, Alexander Volkov needed to impress against Walt Harris to get back in the heavyweight picture. Mission accomplished.
Volkov picked Harris apart in the first round. His ability to mix knees, punches and kicks in combination made it tough for The Big Ticket.
In the second round, he picked up the pace and became even more dangerous. Volkov landed a kick to the midsection that folded Harris, and the Russian followed with uppercuts to finish.
The former Bellator champion has had uneven performances of late, but when he's at his best and able to fight from range, he's a tough out for anyone. This was a great example of what he can do.
For Harris, it was another step back after a disappointing loss to Alistair Overeem.
Phil Hawes def. Jacob Malkoun
Phil Hawes must have had places to go because he didn't waste any time in his UFC debut against Jacob Malkoun. He took just 18 seconds to win, overwhelming Malkoun with strikes.
ESPN's Ariel Helwani noted it was one of the fastest middleweight debuts of all time.
Hawes might be new to the UFC, but he isn't new to getting rid of opponents quickly. He got his UFC contract by knocking out Khadzhimurat Bestaev on Dana White's Contender Series in just one minute, 18 seconds.
Hawes actually lost on DWCS in 2017 but had since rallied to win four fights in a row by technical knockout or submission. With those kind of performances, he should climb the ranks quickly.
Expect the 31-year-old to get every opportunity to continue to make a name for himself.
Lauren Murphy def. Liliya Shakirova
Lauren Murphy was supposed to fight Cynthia Calvillo at UFC 254, but she settled for giving Liliya Shakirova a rude welcome to the UFC instead. Calvillo withdrew from the card for undisclosed reasons, but Murphy made the best of a bad situation.
Murphy employed a patient approach, letting Shakirova get out her aggressiveness before picking the right spot to do her damage. She won with a rear-naked choke for the first submission victory of her career.
Doing so in Abu Dhabi was special to her:
The 37-year-old flyweight now has four wins in a row. The streak includes decisions over Roxanne Modafferi and Andrea Lee. In a division devoid of serious contenders, Murphy appears to be making a case for a title shot in the near future.
Magomed Ankalaev def. Ion Cutelaba
When Magomed Ankalaev met Ion Cutelaba in February, a rivalry and a controversy was created when the referee stopped the fight just 38 seconds into the first round. The second time around, there was no controversy.
Ankalaev scored another first-round finish against Cutelaba. This time it was a flush left hand as Cutelaba was coming in with strikes of his own. The punch floored his opponent, and the Russian followed up with some extra damage.
There was no doubt whether Cutelaba was done this time.
The win put the rivalry behind a light heavyweight prospect with a lot of potential. With Jon Jones leaving and Jan Blachowicz sitting at the top, the 205-pound division feels more wide-open than ever before.
Ankalaev should face a top-15 opponent in his next bout and will have the opportunity to move up the ladder quickly.